Ricci Presser is a certified practicing speech pathologist with over 20 years’ experience working with clients who have communication and swallowing difficulties, in a varied career that has covered both clinical and non-clinical spaces. We caught up with Ricci to learn more about her career, and get a snapshot of a speech pathologist’s typical working day.
Tell us about your work
That is a huge question! I’m a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist with an exciting and diverse career. I enjoy the breadth and depth of work in clinical and non-clinical spaces, and my experience includes direct client contact, research, senior leadership, clinical lead, quality, and projects.
Over the course of my career, I’ve gained experience within public health, community rehabilitation and community health, private and disability, and in metropolitan, rural and remote communities around Australia. This includes outreach work to remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia and servicing the top end of Queensland.
At the moment I’m based in regional Victoria, and I recently commenced private work, using my experience and skills to consult on clinical and non-clinical matters.
Over the last two years my family have had an adventure. We travelled up the east coast of Australia and then experienced a ‘tree’ change to beautiful Warburton. Travelling is always a highlight, it was so wonderful to feel free and be able to experience this beautiful land.
We are now heading back to Melbourne. Currently my work is varied. I have my own private business, which includes direct client contact, including telehealth, and consultation for non-clinical matters such as clinical lead, projects, quality, research, and leadership. I most recently was involved in a locum workforce officer role, assisting with consultations to inform the workforce strategy at Monash Health. I am also employed in community health, working with adults.
What kinds of clients do you work with?
I’ve worked across the lifespan, from early intervention to palliative care.
My speciality is neurological rehabilitation. I consider myself to be a caring and relational clinician who always seeks to achieve the best outcomes for my clients, be that in a one-on-one setting or working on systemic healthcare related projects. Working across sectors and mediums, I’ve developed a great understanding of the intersectionality of the health system.
I have a qualification in Training and Education which has supported my ability to coach clients, families, carers and workers, to assist clients to reach their potential. This qualification has also assisted in the education component of project management, quality and leadership.
I have special interests in digital health, education, and quality and data analysis—I believe the amalgamation of these areas assist in providing a quality service to people, regardless of their postcode. I’m passionate about equity of service and using data analytics to achieve outstanding clinical outcomes.
Was your role impacted during the COVID pandemic?
COVID was an interesting time for me. I was working in a clinical lead role in public health and home schooling two little humans.
I was Awarded the 2019 Lions John Cockayne Memorial Fellowship Trust Fund grant for $15,000 to conduct research “exploring the feasibility of tele-rehabilitation to increase the intensity of speech pathology intervention for home-based clients”.
My background in telehealth prepared me for the huge task of leading the actualisation of a multidisciplinary community telehealth clinic in 2020 / 2021. The expedited acceptance of digital health in the community, due to COVID, changed the mode of service delivery for ever. Being a part of that transformation was exciting and innovative. Of course, there were systemic challenges such as: difficulty pivoting to online therapy, change fatigue, workforce pressures and burnout.
During the COVID peak, clients were triaged and only seen face to face if they were a high priority or at risk. Groups became an issue too. Moving the stroke education group to an online format was a wonderful experience. Learning about how to translate in person groups into an online format had many advantages around accessibility and reach.
Even though this was a challenging time, it was a career highlight thus far. I flexed my problem solving, leadership, project management, networking and negotiating skills and enjoyed creating learning tools. All whilst completing research. I worked with brilliant people who were passionate about providing quality care to clients and managing the COVID situation.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is servicing the community and connection with clients and staff. The intrinsic motivation that comes with helping clients achieve their goals is wonderful. I feel privileged to be trusted with client’s care and system projects. My vision is to help make healthcare accessible to Australians regardless of location or financial standing and create innovate products to help combat the workforce issues that we are facing today.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
We are living in unprecedented times. We need to bring creative solutions to complex demographic, workforce, societal and funding shifts to ensure each client is at the heart and centre of their care: coaching, educating, supporting and training them to empower themselves to achieve their goals.
Currently, the most challenging part of my work is managing the varied positions and roles I hold. I am a lifelong learner; however, every system is different. It takes time, patience, self-compassion, and support to be able to tolerate being a novice in a new system.
What has been a career highlight for you?
I was instrumental in designing and leading the establishment of a telehealth community clinic in 2021. This work has been recognised at various Allied Health research conferences and I’ve has been successful in receiving research grants to support this interest in developing telehealth services.
Another highlight has been leading projects, as a senior team member in the public health system in Victoria. I really enjoyed supporting and mentoring staff in those roles.
Having the opportunity to work in remote communities gave me great insight into the health challenges that are faced and rich cultural exposure. I also worked with some wonderful people and had a lot of fun.
I enjoy presenting at conferences and meeting other allied health professionals. I have the utmost respect for the allied health community and feel positive that together we can move forward to service the community.
What’s next for your career?
I am interested in the systemic issues that health is facing. I would like to be involved in the development of digital technologies to try and reach as many clients as possible, as well as focusing on innovative solutions to workforce challenges and the demographic shift, with our aging population.
We are in a complex and uncertain environment. My goals are for a meaningful and purposeful career. My hope is to help many people access quality allied healthcare thus, making a positive impact on society.
Ricci Presser, thank you for sharing these insights into your career.
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